Cosmetics vocabulary (makeup)

An illustration of a variety of cosmetic products that are listed on this page.

Hear the cosmetics vocabulary pronounced

This cosmetics vocabulary will be helpful when you go to the drug store or beauty store to buy items. To hear the words pronounced in American English, please check out the video below. There is a pause after each item so that you can practice saying the words yourself.


Collocations for cosmetics vocabulary

A few notes when talking about cosmetics:

  • Cosmetics or make-up are both common terms for substances used to enhance the appearance of the face and body.
  • Women sometimes say they "put their face on" or wouldn't go outside without their "face on" to describe wearing make-up.
  • We say "heavy" make-up to describe someone with a lot of make-up on the face.
  • Women who prefer a more "natural look" don't wear as much make-up.
  • We "apply" make-up or cosmetics (= to put on make-up).
  • We "wear" make-up.
  • People sometimes call manicures (for the hands) "mani's" and pedicures (for the feet) "Pedi's."
  • We say we get our "nails done" when we have a manicure or pedicure.


Illustration of an opened container of creamy moisturizer.

moisturizer:  a liquid or cream that adds moisture to the skin.

An image of a concealer stick and a tube with liquid concealer

concealer:  a liquid or cream (often in a stick form) that conceales or hides blemishes, freckles, dark spots, acne, etc.

Illustration of a tube of foundation


foundation:  a liquid or cream that is the color of a person's skin that is put on the face and neck to make the skin look like one smooth even color.

Illustration of a compact filled with powder and a cotton pad applicator

powder:  a dry substance that has very fine particles that is put on the face to make it less shiny and oily.

Image of a mirrored compact filled with blush and a brush to apply blush.


blush:  a cream or powder that makes the cheeks a pink or reddish color.

Illustration of two eye shadow compacts with different colors

eye shadow:  a cream or powder that's put on the eyelids to add color.

Illustration of several different colored eyeliner pencils

eyeliner pencil:  a pencil that is used to line and enhance the rim or contour of the eyes. It can be applied to either the top or bottom of the eye or both. (Eyeliner also comes in liquid form).

Illustration of two different false eyelash sets


false eyelashes (or eyelash extensions) are made of silk or synthetic hair and are used to make natural eyelashes look longer, thicker and fuller.

Illustration of an eyelash curler

eyelash curler:  a small device operated using one's hand that curls the upper eyelashes.

Illustration of two tubes of mascara. One has the tube opened illustrating the mascara brush


mascara:  a liquid substance that is applied to the upper and/or lower eyelashes to add color, darken and/or make eyelashes thicker and longer. It can also be applied to false eyelashes.

Illustration of a lip liner pencil

lip liner:  a pencil used to trace a line around the lips to define their shape and make them look fuller.

Illustration of a tube of pink lipstick and a tube of red lipstick.


lipstick:  a cream that is put on the lips to add color.

Illustration of a tube of lip gloss with the applicator top laying in front of it

lip gloss:  a liquid that is applied to the lips to add a glossy or shiny appearance or color.

Illustration of a bottle of parfume

perfume:  a liquid fragrance that is sprayed on the body to make it smell pleasant. (perfume = for women; cologne = for men)



Manicure items

Illustrations of a cuticle pusher and a cuticle trimmer


cuticle pusher / cuticle trimmer:  tools used to push back or trim the hard skin at the base of fingernails and toenails.

Illustration of wood manicure sticks

wooden manicure sticks:  a small tool used to push back base of the nails.

Illustration of cuticle scissors

cuticle scissors:  used to trim the cuticles.


Illustration of two nail file emery boards

nail file / emery board:  a flat tool used to grind down and shape the finger nails or toe nails.


Illustration of 4 nail polish bottles

nail polish / nail varnish / nail lacquer:  a liquid substance that is applied to the nails to add color and/or shine.



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Practice this manicure and cosmetics vocabulary

Practice this vocabulary by either by speaking out loud to yourself or with a partner or by writing them on a piece of paper. Here are some sample topics you could discuss about this cosmetics vocabulary: 

  • Do you wear cosmetics?
  • Do women in your country wear cosmetics?
  • Do you prefer a more natural look or do you like women who wear heavy makeup?
  • What cosmetics items would you not be able to live without?
  • Do you get your nails "done" (get a manicure or pedicure)?
  • How much does a manicure or pedicure cost in your country?
  • What is your opinion of men wearing make-up?


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